The Mariners go for their season-high fifth straight victory as they visit the Cubs and their former manager in the opener of a three-game interleague series on Tuesday.
Seattle (34-26) has won four straight games and eight of its last nine, including an 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Monday. The contest was a makeup of an April 7 snowout.
Raul Ibanez hit two two-run homers and a triple before doubling home the go-ahead run in the ninth inning to finish a single shy of the cycle. He helped the Mariners recover from blowing a 7-0 lead.
“Raul swung the bat well,” said Mariners manager Mike Hargrove, whose team has won 15 of its last 20 games. “He was big tonight.”
Hargrove’s squad is 4-2 in interleague play this season, including a three-game sweep in San Diego over the weekend, after going 14-4 versus the NL in 2006. The Mariners have won eight straight interleague games on the road, but are playing for the first time in Wrigley Field.
They’ll do so against Piniella, who managed the team for 10 seasons from 1993-2002, leading Seattle to a franchise-record 840 wins and its only three division titles in the team’s 31-year history. He then spent three seasons in Tampa Bay with the Devil Rays, going 12-10 versus the Mariners during that stretch.
Piniella realizes he’s facing one of the hottest teams in the majors.
“The team is doing well, the city of Seattle is a wonderful sports town, and the fans support the team there,” Piniella told the Cubs’ official Web site. “I’m happy for them, I really am. I hope we can play well against them, but (more importantly) we need to start playing well at home.”
The Cubs are 12-17 at Wrigley, but have won back-to-back games there, including a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday in the makeup of an April 11th contest postponed because of rain and snow. Carlos Zambrano gave up just three hits and an unearned run over eight innings and homered for Chicago (28-34), which has won six of its last nine overall following a season-high six-game skid.
Rich Hill (5-4, 2.71 ERA) tries to follow up Zambrano and build on one of his best starts of the season for Chicago. The left-hander held Atlanta to one run and three hits over eight innings in a 2-1 victory on Thursday.
He walked one and struck out a career high-tying 11, throwing 75 of his 108 pitches for strikes. It was his first victory since May 5, snapping a five-start winless streak.
Hill, who has never faced Seattle, has posted a 0.86 ERA over his last three starts and is holding teams to a .189 batting average this season. He will be opposed by Jarrod Washburn (5-5, 3.94), who is trying to rebound from back-to-back short outings.
The left-hander battled flu-like symptoms Wednesday and lasted just 4 2-3 innings in a 9-5 defeat to Baltimore, giving up five runs and nine hits. He didn’t issue a walk and struck out six, throwing 103 pitches.
That start followed his shortest of the season when he pitched just 3 2-3 innings in a no-decision against Texas on June 1. Washburn has pitched well on the road, going 3-1 with a 2.28 ERA in four outings there.
He has never faced the Cubs, but is 8-4 with a 4.24 ERA in 31 career interleague games, including a 7-1 mark on the road.
Chicago won two of three games between these teams in Seattle June 7-9, 2002, in their only previous series. The Cubs put third baseman Aramis Ramirez on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, retroactive to June 7, with tendinitis in his left knee and reinstated outfielder Cliff Floyd from the bereavement list.
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